Caribbean Jazz Project

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Paraiso Review

by Jonathan Widran

When Dave Samuels first formed the Caribbean Jazz Project with, at that time, Paquito D'Rivera and Andy Narell, it was an extension of his own studies in Latin jazz that had been part of his music -- both solo and with Spyro Gyra -- since the mid-'70s. After two albums with the first team, the Project was set aside for other gigs. During this time, Samuels kindled musical friendships with flutist Dave Valentin and guitarist Steve Khan, and Samuels got excited about the possibility of playing off of a traditional Latin instrument -- flute -- and the guitar, which wasn't. This current lineup released New Horizons in early 2000, and Paraiso is an exciting fusion of many different influences and styles. Most of these tunes are over seven minutes, allowing for a live dynamic without the trappings of airplay consideration. Samuels' "One Step Ahead" begins mystically with flute and soundscaping, then romps as a duet between vibes and flute -- backed by increasingly powerful percussion patterns and improvisations -- before Khan's crisp and subtle electric lines offer an irresistible power and edge. The slow dance "Naima" is a loving twist on a Coltrane tune, pepped up by a breezy extended flugelhorn solo by Ray Vega. Khan plays a subtle rhythm line behind a bouncy cha-cha groove and Valentin's cheery flute on "El Tacano." The Duke Ellington standard "Caravan" rolls along at a brisk pace, with Khan backing exciting melodic and improv passages by Samuels and Valentin. Samuels' "Jamboree" is smooth and silky, very much reminiscent of his work with Spyro Gyra -- but think flute in the lead instead of Jay Beckenstein's sax. Overall, this is another glorious celebration of the ways traditional and Latin jazz can meet on common ground. It's a disc that can be appreciated by hardcore fusion fans as well as Latin fans who just want to party.

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